shutterstock_128879707__1380383654_142.196.156.251More and more stories about our vanishing maternity leaves are surfacing and I’m not surprised. Guess what? Bills need to be paid. Forty percent of women are now the primary financial providers for their families. Since our country doesn’t think it’s important to mandate paid maternity leave, what other choice do we have?

From Today Moms:

About two-thirds of U.S. women are employed during pregnancy and about 70 percent of them report taking some time off, according to most recent figures from the National Center for Health Statistics. The average maternity leave in the U.S. is about 10 weeks, but about half of new moms took at least five weeks, with about a quarter taking nine weeks or more, figures showed.

But a closer look shows that 16 percent of new moms took only one to four weeks away from work after the birth of a child — and 33 percent took no formal time off at all, returning to job duty almost immediately.

I was pitching stories from my hospital bed, the day after I gave birth. I took a week off before I had the baby and a week off after. I’m in the more flexible position of being able to work from home, so I can’t even complain about this. It’s just funny to me that often times returning to work so quickly is posited as a “choice.” For most of us, it’s not a choice, it’s a necessity.

When I was seven months pregnant, we moved from New York to Florida to be closer to my family. We’re now in the fortunate position to get free help with child care. Even with this huge financial burden relieved, I still had to immediately return to my heavy weekly freelance load to make ends meet.

“The contributions that women make to household incomes are no longer the icing on the cake; they’re half the cake,” said Ken Matos, senior director of employment research and practice at the Families and Work Institute.

Vanishing maternity leave, single-provider households – parents need more help. I know, I know, Don’t have kids you can’t afford! If only it were that simple. I’ll never understand why so many will leap to that judgement, instead of criticizing a system that offers no support. It’s not okay that we fall so far behind every other developed nation when it comes to maternal support. But as long as we continue to, mothers will be splitting their time and returning to work long before they are ready – simply because there are no other options.

(photo: c12/ Shutterstock)